Distinct Features of Social Work Profession

Main features of Social Work Profession

Why Social Work is Different?

Professional social work is different from other helper professions in how it helps clients to be the best they can be in their environments. The person-in-environment approach is at the heart of what social workers do. Professional social workers are trained to help their clients make the most of their chances for change in their lives and their situations. The term "client" refers to people, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

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Also, social work is unique because of its professional values and ethics, appreciation for human diversity, emphasis on social and economic justice, knowledge of social welfare policy and services, and strong foundation in field education, which are all important parts of the job.

Unique approaches to problem-solving and interventions can be seen in direct clinical practice; policy planning; administration; community services; government services; private and public sectors; teaching and research; as well as in private and public sectors.


Professional Features of Social Work

Social workers respect the dignity and inherent worth of every person. There are major four (4) distinct features of the social work profession are as below:

Focus on the Whole Person

When examining a presenting problem, or the reason a person seeks help, many helping professions focus solely on specific mental, physical or psychological states and problems. Social workers take into account the entire person and examine the effects of every aspect of that person's life on the presenting problem. This is known as the bio-psycho-social, or "person-in-environment," perspective. Using this perspective, a social worker considers all of the biological, psychological and social traits, problems or circumstances that can have an impact on her client. Social workers understand that problems are generally caused by imbalances in the bio-psycho-social system, says social worker Alice Lieberman in an article for Routledge's educational series, "New Perspectives in Social Work."


Respect for Multiculturalism

Respect for multiculturalism is another distinguishing characteristic of social work, according to social work professor Joseph Walsh in his book, "Theories for Direct Social Work Practice." Cultural competence is one of the guiding principles for social work practice, as laid out by the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics. This involves a focus on helping people from all walks of life and respecting the dignity of the individual, regardless of their ethnic, socioeconomic, religious or political beliefs. Social workers should avoid discrimination and demonstrate respect for all people.


The Strengths Perspective

Social workers operate from a strengths-based perspective. This is another defining characteristic of social work that involves focusing on clients' strengths as a way to help them solve problems and overcome life challenges. This doesn't mean that social workers turn a blind eye to potential weaknesses. Instead, social workers help clients discover and build on their strengths to help them become more proactive and responsible for their own lives. They know that people are often more resilient than they realize. Social workers offer insight and support to help clients realize their inherent strengths, but it is ultimately up to the client to take action to improve her situation and surmount obstacles.


Social Justice and Human Rights

Fighting for social justice and human rights are fundamental characteristics of social work, according to the International Federation of Social Workers' Statement of Ethical Principles. Social workers believe that everyone has the right to self-determination. This means that social workers respect their clients' right to choose the correct course of action, even if they disagree with the decision or hold conflicting values. Social workers also try to promote justice in society, which means that they work to fight oppression, challenge discrimination and promote social inclusion for all people.


Qualities of a Social Worker

Five Social Worker Qualities

  1. Social Justice Awareness
  2. Objectivity
  3. Empathy
  4. Resiliency / Self-Care Skills
  5. Professionalism

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